Why Some Women May Be More Prone to Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are tumors made up of similar muscle fibers which attach to the wall of the uterus. Uterine fibroids are most always benign, and are present in nearly half of the female population, however most go undiagnosed until they begin to cause serious problems. While scientist are not sure what causes uterine fibroids to grow in some women and not in others, they believe there is definitely a genetic component, just as there is in breast cancer.
Women with a family history of uterine fibroids are much more likely to have them, and African-American women seem to be the most susceptible to the tumors and tend to get them at a much younger age than Caucasian women. Women who had their first period before the age of ten are also much more likely to develop uterine fibroids, and those women in middle age who suffer from high blood pressure or have frequent uterine infections are also more susceptible.
Because uterine fibroids contain much more estrogen than other uterine cells, scientists believe there is a hormonal connection. Obesity can also be another factor which puts women at a greater risk of developing fibroids, while women who are either taking oral contraceptives, or those who are pregnant are much less likely to develop fibroids.
Effects of Uterine Fibroids
When a woman is unaware that she has uterine fibroids, and they are causing no trouble, no treatment will generally be advised. Other women can have serious symptoms as a result of uterine fibroids including heavy and painful periods, a constant feeling of "heaviness" in the lower abdomen, the need to urinate frequently and a dull ache in the lower back. Some women will also experience pain during sex and breakthrough bleeding between menstrual periods.
Depending on where the uterine fibroids are located, they may create pressure on the rectum or bladder, causing the woman to feel constipated, or feel as though she needs to urinate constantly. In rarer cases the fibroids may not be getting the oxygen and blood they need to survive, and can suffer cell death, which in turn can release chemical substances, causing the uterus to swell and be extremely painful. While fibroids are rarely cancerous, they can lead to infertility, making surgery to remove the fibroids necessary. Occasionally a fibroid tumor can grow to the point that it creates an obstruction of the fallopian tube, prohibiting conception, and women who have fibroids during their pregnancy do have a slightly higher risk of miscarriage and premature delivery.
Surgery for Fibroids
Depending on how severe the fibroids are in a woman's body, she may be able to undergo a less invasive type of surgery which is known as uterine artery embolization. During this process a radiologist inserts a tube into the uterine arteries which connect directly to the fibroid tumors and injects them with a chemical substance which depletes their blood supply, causing them to wither and die. The surgery does have certain risks, such as damage to neighboring organs or infection. Ultrasound surgery requires no incision or hospitalization, using ultrasound waves to destroy the fibroids. In some cases drugs are used in fibroid removal as a precursor to surgery, shrinking the fibroids in order to make them easier to remove. Women who are near menopause and prefer not to have surgery can also opt for drugs which will shrink the tumors until their body ceases to produce estrogen which will naturally reduce the size of the tumors. Women who have large tumors or multiple fibroid growths could consider an operation known as a myomectomy which involves cutting out the part of the uterus with the abnormal growth. Those women with major complications from the fibroids may end up having hysterectomy. Some women have found relief form their fibroid tumors through natural methods such as changing their diet, getting regular exercise and seeking the help of a naturopath.